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Security measures, Holocaust education, control over student grades and more

Security measures ripped: An interim report from a statewide grand jury says required security measures at some schools have not been been fully implemented because of disagreements between Florida school districts and law enforcement agencies over responsibility for compliance. Among those requirements are having an armed person at all schools, collaborating with law enforcement to assess the threat from certain students, and turning in accurate crime and safety reports. “The responsibility of securing our schools is not a matter to be passed from agency to agency, it is not a budget item to be haggled over, and it is not an agenda issue to be whittled down by negotiation into minimum legally sufficient actions,” the report says. No school districts or law enforcement agencies were named in the report. Associated Press. Sun Sentinel.

Security in schools: The Broward County School District plans to add 500 security workers to the 745 it already has to boost security in schools this fall. More unarmed guards will be placed in elementary schools, and armed guardians will be added at large middle schools and high schools. None of the additions will be sworn law enforcement officers. The district’s goal is to have at least one police officer or armed guardian for every 1,000 students. District officials will use proceeds from a measure passed by voters last year that is expected to generate $93 million a year for four years. About $19 million will be used annually for the increased security. Sun Sentinel.

Holocaust education: Palm Beach school officials are defending the instruction they provide students about the Holocaust in their response to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. Corcoran ordered a review of the district’s efforts after one of its principals told a parent “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.” While education of the Holocaust is required by the state, what is taught is left to the discretion of principals, leading to huge gaps in approach, enthusiasm and curriculum from school to school. “There is no Holocaust police,” says Linda Medvin, who directs Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education and works with teachers on teaching materials. “So many other things get thrown at teachers, and many of the teachers never learned it when they were in school. The push has to come from the school district, and then it has to come from the principal.” Sun Sentinel. Stateline.

Teachers and grades: The Pasco County School District is proposing to give teachers more say in whether students’ grades get changed after report cards are handed out. Right now, principals have the sole authority to make alterations in grades. The new policy would have principals collaborate with teachers, and give the final say to teachers. School board vice chair Colleen Beaudoin called the proposal a common-sense move. “A principal shouldn’t be going in and changing grades without talking to the teacher,” she said. The proposal would also separate behavior grades and academic grades. Gradebook.

Top teacher profile: Dakeyan Graham, named Florida teacher of the year last week, now teaches music in the same Hillsborough County high school band room where he practiced the saxophone as a student. Nishira Mitchell, the former assistant principal at King High School, praised Graham for being able to connect with students that other teachers and administrators couldn’t. “Dr. Graham makes you believe you can do everything and you are the best at everything,” says Mitchell. “He did that for the faculty and for the students and for the parents. It’s like they will drink the Kool-Aid for Dr. Graham. They worship him.” Graham calls teachers “world changers,” and says he wants to be an advocate for the ones discouraged by the system. “We need to allow teachers opportunities for success, the same opportunities that we expect the students to have,” he said. Gradebook.

Pushing for equity: Hillsborough County school officials insist that a change in superintendents next year won’t affect the district-wide initiatives aimed at raising the performances at struggling schools and narrowing the achievement gap. Under Jeff Eakins, the district has expanded its improvement programs from seven schools to 50. And the district is working on boosting preschool participation to make children better prepared for school. Eakins is retiring June 30, 2020, but assistant superintendent Tricia McManus insists, “I will tell you, we are 100 percent committed. Not only our Achievement School leadership team, but my colleagues in cabinet and our principals. We are very, very committed to seeing this work through. There will be no distractions this year. We are on a mission.” Gradebook.

Turnaround schools: The Polk County School District is hiring a new outside operator as part of the turnaround plan for McLaughlin Middle School and Fine Arts Academy in Lake Wales, which received a D grade from the state. Other changes include the addition of a co-principal, starting the school year with a full teaching staff instead of substitutes, extra training and double planning periods for teachers, closer monitoring of students’ performance, and more authority for school leaders to hire and shape curriculum. Lakeland Ledger.

Private school closed: The Orange Park Performing Arts Academy has been evicted from its building for being $156,000 behind in rent and now appears to be closed. Residents around the private school say they’ve seen furniture, equipment and supplies being carried out of the building, and the school’s man phone line is disconnected. WJXT.

Driver’s ed funding: The number of driver’s education classes being offered by the Volusia County School District is declining because the funding is drying up. A $5 surcharge for moving violation tickets finances the classes, but the number of violations has dropped 30 percent between 2014 and 2018, according to the Volusia clerk of courts. So the school district, which used to have 14 classes in the fall and spring, now offers just six each semester. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Board member job-hunting: Manatee County School Board member Scott Hopes, who was unsuccessful in his bid to become president of the University of South Florida earlier this year, is now applying to run Santa Fe College in Gainesville. Hopes is one of more than 60 applicants. Santa Fe College plans to interview semifinalists next month, and make a choice by October. Current president Jackson Sasser retires in February. Bradenton Herald.

Personnel moves: Former Pinellas County school Superintendent Clayton Wilcox has resigned after two years as superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., school district. He had been suspended a week ago, and resigned after the school board unanimously approved a separation agreement. No reason was given, but reports indicated violations of state law and board policies prompted the move. WSOC. Charlotte Observer. Gradebook. Nine Marion County schools will get new principals this fall. Two are at schools that are in the state’s turnaround program and being supervised by outside operators. Ocala Star-Banner.

Back to school spending: The average household will spend about $1,673 on back-to-school items this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. That’s 3 percent higher than last year. A big chunk of that increase is expected to go for electronics. WFLA.

Focus on physics: Two university physics teachers will speak to the Polk County School Board on Tuesday to promote the need for expanding science and math instruction in schools. Paul Cottle from Florida State University and Adam LaMee from University of Central Florida will give board members a hand’s-on demonstration of physics principles. It’s open to the public. Lakeland Ledger.

School, district grades: More reports and analysis from districts and schools about grades issued from the state earlier this month. Nassau.

School property question: The Monroe County School Board will consider whether to use land on Stock Island for a $13.9 million transportation facility, as district officials propose, or for employee housing, as the Key West Chamber of Commerce is suggesting. The meeting is Tuesday. Key West Citizen.

Fire damages school: A fire of undisclosed origin has seriously damaged an eight-classroom building on the campus of McLane Middle School in Hillsborough County. District spokeswoman Tanya Arja called the building “a total loss.” When students return to school in three weeks, they will attend classes in other campus buildings. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: Those who argue against school choice are not defending traditional education. They are instead working to deprive people — quite frequently the poor and minorities — of one of our nation’s foundational principles: the right to pursue a better life. Lakeland Ledger. It’s absurd that the Citrus County School District and the sheriff’s office have not yet come to an agreement on a contract to secure schools. Citrus County Chronicle. The state’s new requirement for five hours of mental health instruction in public schools annually is one small step forward for students, but more is needed. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Jacksonville Civic Council is not an elected body. Decisions regarding the schools’ master plan don’t belong to it. Nor do they belong to the mayor or City Council. The people elected the Duval County School Board to oversee these matters. Julie Delegal, Florida Times-Union. Linking the Duval County School Board’s proposed half-cent sales tax plan to Jacksonville City Hall’s credit rating seems based on some pretty wild and questionable speculation. Nate Monroe, Florida Times-Union. Education is not where it should or could be in Jacksonville, and a huge share of the blame for that falls on the shoulders of the Florida Times-Union editorial board for its pro-privatization agenda. Chris Guerreri, Florida Times-Union. Hotelier Harris Rosen pioneered his preschool program more than 20 years ago because he understands that research shows that’s where you can make the biggest difference. What he doesn’t understand is why the state and businesses don’t invest more in this crucial first step. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. How a trophy case helped defuse a smoldering racial problem 50 years ago at Manatee High School, and why it matters now. Chris Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: The Gainesville Buchholz High School math team wins the Mu Alpha Theta national championship in Las Vegas, defeating 54 other U.S. schools. One team member, senior Yared Tadesse, won the Kalin Award for his excellence in math and contributions to Mu Alpha Theta. Gainesville Sun. Spruce Creek High School’s Advancing Glaciers recently won first place among 22 school districts in the Florida State Envirothon Competition. The team of six students now competes in the North American competition at North Carolina State University on July 29. Port Orange Observer. Polk County students and their families can get free food, personal care items, haircuts and more at the Summer Palooza giveaway organized by New Beginnings High School, a charter school company for students 15-24 years old who have left traditional schools but are still working on a high school diploma. Lakeland Ledger. Stuff the Bus is collecting school supplies this week to provide for needy students in Santa Rosa County. WEAR. Lee County’s Summer Feeding Program has been filling the food gap by providing meals for students when school is out for the past 17 years. Fort Myers News-Press. The Lake County School District is chosen as one of 34 U.S. “Districts of Distinction” by District Administration magazine for revitalizing the Leesburg High School construction academy. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff